Category: Sherlock Holmes

Audio Drama Review: The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes

To call The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes ambitious would be an understatement. It’s a collection of four-hour-long, original audio dramas from the life of Sherlock Holmes that spans nearly forty years, has an underlying plot that ties together through the set, yet each story holds up fairly well on its own.

The stories are an interesting mix. The lead off tale is set before Holmes and Watson met and has Holmes having his first meeting with Lestrade in England, while Watson is kidnapped from his unit to care for a dying Englishman in Afghanistan.

The second story is set shortly after Holmes’ return from being presumed dead and after the Adventure of Empty House and a series of great successes which leads to arrogance and a failure that leads to a well-deserved dressing down. The third part tells the reason why Holmes retired so young from Detective work. The final story is set after World War I and finds Holmes and Watson on their way to Europe to apprehend an old enemy only to discover the mastermind behind the entire affair.

The stories are well-written both individually and as a collection. It really hangs together quite well. The acting by the leads is superb as Briggs and Earl really inhabit the roles. The set manages to highlight the warmth and strength of the Holmes-Watson friendship that has survived so much. This combination is a really a pleasure to listen, particularly with stories as strong as these. The music and sound design are also up to the high standards Big Finish has established on all its releases.

Overall, The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes is a great box set that offers fans of Sherlock Holmes fresh stories that feel true to the spirit of Sherlock Holmes.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

Audio Drama Review: The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner

The Sherlock Holmes Audio Drama The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner was originally released by Big Finish to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic disaster. It’s set during Holmes’ retirement to Suffolk to raise bees. The story finds Holmes estranged from Watson, who is grief-stricken after his second wife died aboard the Titanic. Watson’s visit to Holmes is disrupted by Bruce Ismay, an executive of the line which owned the Titantic. He escaped from the ship alive while many women and children sank into the sea and he was viewed as a cowardly villain. Ismay asks for Holmes’ help because he believes he’s being haunted by a specter–a specter that’s leaving people dead in its wake.

Overall, this production is an emotionally meaty story. Unlike many actors who have played Holmes in the past, Nicholas Briggs makes changes to his characterization to reflect the aging of the character. There are slight changes to his voice, but more to his mannerisms. In one scene, Holmes has deduced Watson’s entire reason for coming. Watson says he doesn’t care how Holmes knew he’d come. Holmes tells him anyway as if on auto pilot. Watson has some great scenes with Ismay. The mystery itself is engaging, but not the main attraction of this story. What makes this tale work so well are the great character interactions and the thorough historical research.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles


The Hound of the Baskervilles is like the Christmas Carol. You don’t watch or listen to an adaptation to find out what happens but to see how well the creators have captured the story. Big Finish does a superb job of capturing the spirit of the Hound of the Baskervilles in  a very traditionalist adaptation. Amazingly, the entire program was recorded and rehearsed in a single day.

The cast is  wonderful. Richard Earl has got the part of Watson nailed and that’s vital since most of the story centers around him. John Banks and Charlie Norfolk did Yeoman’s work, playing five parts and three parts respectively. They did it so seamlessly, I didn’t know they didn’t have separate actors for each part until I listened to the Extra’s CD. Samuel Clemens is very compelling as Sir Henry Baskerville. And of course, Briggs is great as Holmes.

Of course, what  makes the piece so atmospheric over audio is the sound design and music, coupled with Earl’s narration and they did an incredibly good job in post-production. It captured the spookiness and suspense of the story. Overall, Big Finish does Doyle’s most legendary story justice in a superb adaptation.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: The Reification of Hans Gerber

The Reification of Hans Gerber is an original Sherlock Holmes audio drama written in the twenty-first century. However, if you weren’t familiar with the Doyle canon, you’d be hard pressed to know that this was written by Doyle himself.

The plot captures the feel and atmosphere of Holmes without retreading over old ground. Holmes is called in to investigate the death of a wealthy man who left behind three nephews and a niece who expect to inherit until the will disappears, then one man is set to inherit. At first, it’s the eldest cousin, but a disowned relative named Hans Gerber emerges to claim the estate. It appears he’s out for more than the old man’s money when one of the cousins is murdered. The mystery is thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

Nicholas Briggs turns in his usual superb performance as Holmes, and Richard Earl plays Watson perfectly in the Edward Hardwicke tradition. One of the reasons the story feels so authentic is the amount of narration and description involved and Earl is a superb narrator. The other outstanding performance was Terry Malloy who plays Inspector Bainbridge, a police inspector who shows an amazing amount of competence.

It’s hard to overstate how much I enjoyed this. Pastiches so often fail to capture the feel of the original or are so busy inserting modern sensibilities and personalities into the story that they feel out of place. The authenticity of the story is outstanding. It’s tour de force  in writing, acting,  and production values.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem / The Empty House


The second series of Big Finish’s Sherlock Holmes range kicks off with the adaptation of the two Sherlock Holmes stories. “The Final Problem,” where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempts to kill Holmes off,  and “The Empty House,” where Holmes returns.

As writer/star Nicholas Briggs admits, these are not traditional adaptations.  In the previous adaptation, a bonus talking book of “The Speckled Band” was released with a word-for-word reading of that story. This is similar but this production dispenses with “He said.” Otherwise this is a  straightforward, almost word-for-word adaptation of Doyle’s stories with most of it told through Watson’s narration or Holmes narrating to Watson what has happened previously. As such, the strength of these adaptations rest on the strength of the underlying story.

However, Big Finish does add some nice touches. There’s an emotional core in these stories that Richard Earl, as Watson, does a superb job of capturing. Briggs turns in a solid performance as Holmes, playing the character perfectly as written, even when he’s being smug in “The Empty House.”  And one of the most interesting and subtle things they do in “The Final Problem”is tell the narration as Watson writing this down, and we hear the pen crossing the paper and the sound of pen will change and become more pronounced at certain emotional points. It’s a simple bit of sound design, but it’s  clever and adds something interesting to the production.

These are solid, dramatic readings with a good soundscape added in. However, given the wealth of material and the countless adaptations of these stories, the appeal of this release is limited and this would be the last time Big Finish used the format for Sherlock Holmes.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.00

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